Despite the different understandings of society, people born with Down syndrome can perform various jobs in order to integrate more efficiently into society. Two young people engaged as United Nations Volunteers as part of the Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans 2 (ReLOaD2) are the proof.
Employment of people with Down syndrome is very rare or almost never happens in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Non-governmental organizations estimate that slightly more than a thousand people with Down syndrome live in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while only three to four of them are permanently employed.
ReLOaD2, funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), provided an opportunity for young people with difficulties to gain their first work experience. Among them are Anes Kujović from the Municipality of Centar Sarajevo, who is the first person with Down syndrome in the world to become an UN Volunteer, and Enaida Alispahić, who was hired a few months later in the Local Development Management Service of the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo.
21-year-old Enaida says that she always loved to work, whether it was housework, school or other duties, she accepted everything with joy, and that’s how she welcomes every new working day. Now, she is engaged in administrative tasks that include archiving, preparing and scanning documentation, as well as recording incoming projects through public calls and the like.
“It’s great for me here. I can do all kinds of things, write, type, and I feel really good. I’m coming in the morning with my mom. I do everything and I have fives to work with. When I don’t know something, I ask how to do it,” said Enaida.
She shares her office with another UNV, Azra Džihanić, who is also her mentor. Džihanić says that daily work support is extremely important for Enaida in order to gain independence and integrate more easily into the business environment.
“She is hard-working and will come to your aid when something is needed and is extremely dedicated to completing every task. Until now, she has worked on the protocol for projects that were approved by municipal public invitations, which she did impeccably. In addition, if something needs to be printed out, take it to the second service, Enaida does it without any problems”, said Džihanić.
Mayor of Municipality of Novo Sarajevo, Dr. Hasan Tanović, expressed his great satisfaction that this year, with the help from European Union and UNDP, the Municipality was given the opportunity to hire a young person with disabilities who will gain first work experience in this local community.
“Enaida is a wonderful young person who quickly adapted to her work environment. We warmly welcomed her to the Municipality, and the Local Development Management Service is the right place where she will get to know the administrative tasks as well as the projects implemented by the Municipality, through various activities and with the support of young and creative colleagues. She is a real example that people with Down syndrome have great potential and that as such they can and should be integrated into our society. The municipality of Novo Sarajevo, as a socially responsible local community, will continue to provide full support in their further training and work engagement”. said Dr. Tanović.
Enaida’s mother, Fatima Peljto, says that she was pleased with the invitation for her daughter’s engagement. She adds that state institutions and other organizations should follow the example of inclusive internships, which is promoted by UNDP within the framework of the ReLOaD2 project, with the financial support of the European Union.
“I am really glad that Enaida is working and developing work habits, especially because she is surrounded by experienced and educated people. Throughout her childhood and education, she was always a hardworking, persistent and persistent person. Whatever she does, she always approaches it thoroughly and gets the job done without a mistake, and I know that she knows and can do a lot,” said Peljto.
She adds that her daughter has always had an empathetic ability to connect with different people, and therefore notices that she also enjoys her new work environment.
“I meet my colleagues at work and they help me to do something“, says Enaida and adds that she is looking forward to receiving her first salary.
However, while Enaida looks at the world optimistically, her mother says that throughout her life she was often exposed to the prejudices of the community from which the family tried to protect her.
“Enaida likes people, she likes to socialize and we didn’t have any problems in that regard. However, there are many challenges that we had to overcome and disappointments that we suffered due to the very widespread stigmatization of people with Down syndrome“, said Peljto.
Although there are doubting voices and skepticism about the abilities of people with Down syndrome in society, Eniada’s cheerful spirit and determination never discouraged.
In order to integrate people with developmental disabilities as efficiently as possible, and to promote inclusivity and diversity, ReLOaD2 has so far provided internships for four people with disabilities, as well as 18 other young people in cities and municipalities across BiH.